Best Practices for Creating Online Tests and Quizzes

Enrich Your E-Learning and Training Courses With Brain Teasers — and Track Your Trainees’ Results

Testing can be a useful tool for online course designers, yet it’s one that tends to be underutilized. And with online learning systems, creating tests and quizzes is quite simple, so it’s definitely worth pursuing.  Techniques for producing great online quizzes tend to fall into two broad categories, based on your overriding priority:

The Training Model: Tests that review material for the purpose of reinforcing a lesson, such as training.

The Education Model: Tests that gauge comprehension for the purpose of evaluation or grading.

Following are some ideas about how to compose online quizzes for each category.

Best Practices for the Training Model

Frequently, e-learning curricula is designed to teach people new material — as is the case in most training scenarios. This creates its own dynamic, with a unique set of tricks to most effectively get those lessons across. When it comes to training, quick quizzes can be really useful when they’re embedded right in the learning materials. A few tips to consider as you design your training quiz:

  • Reinforce Main Points: If your goal is to make sure trainees understand a new subject, break up the instruction periodically with review material in the form of a quiz. Consider allowing the respondent to answer multiple times until getting it right, or display the right answer after theirs is submitted — it’ll reinforce the lesson. Create questions that apply the information trainees have just learned to a realistic scenario, such as labeling the parts of an image.
  • Introduce New Material: A quiz can also be an effective way to forecast material that trainees are about to learn. This proven educational technique helps people focus on the right things during a lesson. Plus, it can also serve as a reminder that there are subjects coming that they don’t understand yet, so they’d better pay close attention. Consider displaying the same quiz after a session is over to gauge how well the material was comprehended, and to show the trainee how far they’ve come.
  • Keep them guessing: No matter how interested the student, doing anything long enough can cause the mind to drift. Short, periodic tests help pull trainees back into the material. Mix up the question types – multiple choice, labeling, ordering – so the process doesn’t become too routine.

Best Practices for the Education Model

Unless someone is on hand to proctor examinations, it’s useful to remember that all e-learning quizzes are “open book.” Questions that emphasize memorization are therefore not as effective for truly evaluating a student’s progress. This seems like a limitation, but actually, it opens up a lot of possibilities.

  • Apply the Lessons: Create questions that force students to apply lessons from the material to real-life scenarios. This is really the essence of what mathematics has always called ‘story problems,’ and it’s an effective method for measuring how well one can synthesize new lessons with the surrounding world.
  • Mix up the questions: If cheating is a concern, a few techniques can help reduce the likelihood. One is to create several variants on a quiz, with each putting questions in a different order. Since grading is likely automated, this shouldn’t result in additional grading time. Alternately, if essay or short-answer is the norm, consider assigning an ungraded text early in the schedule for the purposes of saving it as an example of each student’s style. If suspicions arise on later tests, you’ll have one more way to check.
  • Avoid True/False: True/false questions are usually oversimplified to begin with, and give too much credit for those who simply guess or toss a coin and get half the questions right by accident. Although you may find moments in which this form is the best choice, it’s a good one to avoid as a general rule. 

Adapting to the new modes of education and training offered by e-learning opens new horizons for teaching and learning. By following some basic rules, anyone can make or improve online learning materials.

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